NZ natives in survey of top 10 garden birds

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Only two native species – silvereyes and fantails – feature among the top 10 birds counted during New Zealand's first nationwide garden bird survey.

The survey took place between July 14 and 22 last year, with housholders and other participants spending one hour watching birds in their home gardens, local parks, or school grounds.

They recorded the highest number of individuals of each species seen at once in New Zealand, said organiser, ornithologist Eric Spurr.

A total of 2064 valid survey forms were returned, recording 90 species.

"The large number of species was surprising, but reflects the fact that home gardens ranged from truly urban to rural and seaside," Dr Spurr said.

The silvereye was the species recorded in greatest numbers during the survey with an average of 10.2 per garden while the native fantail was the ninth most abundant species (0.86 per garden).


The tui trailed at 11th, with the bellbird 15th and the kereru 18th.

Dr Spurr said the survey proved highly popular and planning is already under way for a survey this year between July 12 and 20.

"We want to get people interested in birds and the environment but we also want to look at trends in bird numbers over time," he said.

"We need to know if birds such as tui, bellbirds, grey warblers, and fantails are increasing or declining in our gardens and in our towns and cities."

Dr Spurr said last year's results had some "pleasant surprises" including the presence of kaka in some gardens.

One resident of Stewart Island who fed kaka and regularly had up to 24 in her garden found during a sudden downpour that 17 of them had come in through her sliding doors to shelter from the rain on the living room floor and couch, he said.

"Another time a kaka came inside at night and helped itself to nibbles laid out for dinner party guests," he said.

A resident of Coromandel who put out sugar-water and seeds for birds had a kaka come to his feeders every evening, and there was a garden in Tauranga with large trees where kaka came every winter – unusual since kaka did not usually live in towns.

Dr Spurr said he was overwhelmed by the public response which included many letters, detailed notes on the birds visiting gardens, and photographs of birds.

One rural resident placed her completed survey form in the mailbox for the rural delivery person to collect, but found it on the roadside two weeks later.

She found a starling had been trying to use her mailbox as a nest, and was carrying mail away and dropping it on the ground.